The Fascist Tendencies of Roosevelt
Up to comparatively recently Fascism has appeared as a social-political movement in countries predominantly agrarian. However, the trends that arose in Great Britain during and immediately after the British General Strike, and more recently, the rise of German Fascism into power have shown us that Fascism is creeping from the periphery to the very hear and head of capitalism, challenging all other social trends and making the central issue of this post-war period inescapable the question of Fascism or Communism.
Even in America, the stronghold of republican conservatism and democratic liberalism, there is taking place a very definite turn in the road. America is rapidly becoming politically “Europeanized” i.e., class interests are being openly acknowledged. As usual the employers have been far ahead of the workers in profiting from the lessons of Europe and even before the working class has lined up in a mass militant part of labor, the ruling regime, guided by Roosevelt, is moving in the direction of Fascism.
General Characterization of Fascism.
The national peculiarities of the different countries in which Fascism now holds sway or is a powerful force, Italy, Poland, Austria, Poland, Finland, Germany, etc., have brought about variations in its form and some modifications in practice. Yet, in spite of these national variations, certain definite characteristics appear in all the types of Fascism.
There is always the attempt to form a completely national self-sufficient economy in the midst of the complicated international ties already developed. An openly aggressive chauvinist nationalism shouting from the house-tops, “Everything for the State, nothing outside the State”, is one of the most salient features.
The formation of capitalist industrial associations is made compulsory. Within these associations a definite hierarchy is built up in which, of course, big business dominates little business. All industry begins to take on a public-utility character, being regulated through State organs. The industrial associations become part of the Sate apparatus itself. In short, Fascism, economically speaking, is the more or less violent acceleration of the concentration and centralization of capital which it brings to head in the form of State capitalism of one sort of another. It is capitalist collectivism instead of the old capitalist individualism.
Automatically, the end of laissez-faire competition is brought about. Prices are fixed. Wages are fixed. The anarchy of the marked is modified by the order of the State, as competition gives way to State controlled monopoly.
At the same time labor is violently regimented and robotized. All labor organizations, such as workers’ parties, trade unions, etc., are forcible broken up; the independent power of the working-class is smashed. Strikes are forbidden; forcible class collaboration through compulsory arbitration and other methods becomes the rule. Fascist “unions” are established whose agreements with the employers are law. Through a system of social insurance the slogan is sanctioned of “Every man in his place and a place for every man". A theory is created to idealize “hard work” and to excoriate the “parasite” (the loafer, the rentier, of the usurer and banker).
The farmers and the workers whose union would be antagonistic to the welfare of the capitalists, are separated. Every effort is make to subsidize the farmer and to keep him contended. The students are placed in the enlarged State apparatus. The ex-soldier is given a special position. The Petty businesses are carried along as dependent allies by big business.
The capitalists, too, are forcibly unified and with them, in some cases, the old Royalist aristocracy. An open dictatorship is created. Only one political party is allowed. An end is made to the power of parliament. Advisory bodies are set up by industrial rather than territorial divisions. Against the “Liberty, Fraternity, Equality of the French Revolution, there is opposed the “Hierarchy, Order, Discipline” of the Fascist Counter-Revolution. And with all this there is coupled the principle that the “militant minority” the “elite” must rule over all the classes and harmonize all interests in behalf of the nation as a whole.
Fascist Germs in the U. S.
Such a system as we have described certainly does not yet exist in America. But it is necessary to understand the tendencies underlying the drastic changes in the structure of American life that are being brought about by the new legislation of Roosevelt’s regime. If we ask ourselves: In What direction is the government moving today, it is necessary to realize that it is moving in the direction of Fascism. Especially is this true of the changes which are now being brought about in the economic field. America, with a home market that consumed 90% of its enormous production, has always had a physical basis for a national self-sufficient economy. This has been accentuated by traditions of high tariff, by the great fall of foreign trade during the crisis, and by the breakdown of the League of Nations and the rise of rampant nationalism everywhere. The Roosevelt embargo on gold shipments, the announced policy of Moley for the World Economic Conference, that American domestic problems come first over international ones, the Big Navy appropriations, the growing resentment against Japan and France, all are signs of a growing, aggressive nationalism.
Through the Emergency Banking Act, the Act co-ordinating the railroads, the Farm Relief Law, the Industrial Recovery Law and other measures, there is taking place the rapid national organization of trade associations. One of the features of Fascism is a demagogic complaint against banking capital and a stricter control over banks. This is well on the way in the U.S. Stimulated by the failure of such firms as Kidder Peabody and Co., the Bank of U.S., and the bankruptcy of approximately one out of every six banks, driven by the exposures of the Krueger Toll case, the Insull Utility Corporation case, the case of the National City Bank and the Mitchells and Harrimans, and stung by the revelations of the Senate Committee on J.P. Morgan and Otto Kahn, the public has been well prepared for banking control. Through the Emergency Banking Act the power of the Federal Reserve System has been greatly strengthened, some of the smaller banks have been closed down, branch banking of the larger banking systems encouraged. It is the demagogy of the Industrialists like Henry Ford and his representative Senator Couzens, it is the orations of such as Huey Long that have been allowed free play. In fact what has happened is the compulsory association of all the banks in the country--under the control of the large banks and the State. These central banking systems have been further systematically strengthened by government bond issues, by huge loans through the Reconstruction Finance Corporation and by enormous payments to be made thought the Farm Mortgage Relief and Home Relief Laws.
The Industrial Recover (Slavery) Act.
It is the Industrial Recovery Law that provides for the most drastic changes. All the employers of a given industry are organized into national associations. The Sherman Anti-Trust Act as well as the decisions under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the U.S. have been brushed aside. The President has the power to license all businesses engaged in interstate commerce. Those who will not join these associations will be deprived of their licenses and put out of business.
The Associations will present a code to the government. This code will fix prices. It will fix wages. After an open hearing it will become the law. In charge of the “open hearings” there is placed a military general to give a “tone” to the proceedings, no doubt. Within these associations big businesses will bring “the independents” into line. Trusts and monopolies will be consolidated and regulated by the State. Prices will not only be fixed but raised, and the Industrial Recovery Law means not only the end of the old individualism but a rise in to cost of living as well.
The public works mentioned in the Act include a great number of projects from the development of water power and other deficiency works to the clearing of slums. Already the government is launching a heavy naval program including reconditioning of old ships and building of new ones. The muscle Shoals property is supposed to be developed to the highest degree. Since all communities are cutting down drastically in expenditures for schools, hospitals and other projects which might be of benefit to the workers, it is evident the public works outside of the naval plan which is destined to bring destruction to the workers will consist chiefly of efficiency projects such as roads, dams, development of water power, etc., which tend to increase capitalist efficiency.
It is necessary at once to rip off all shreds of pretense in the proviso that workers and employees are not obliged to join company unions or to sign yellow dog contracts, that labor is free to choose its own representatives. How is labor to choose its own representatives? Only when organized can it do so. How many effective labor unions are there in this county? The A.F.L. is down to little more than a million and a half, the few independent unions have lost greatly, the TUUL has little strength. It is many years since labor organization has been at such a low ebb as now. Only here and there can organized labor put in its voice in framing of labor codes. Of course, a great show is make in the federal Labor Board where a choice gang of A.F.L. fakers with General Hugh Johnson and that great labor woman Frances Perkins to assure to the world the protection of the rights of the workers. In the great unorganized industries (steel, textile, automobile, oil, rubber, etc) all that can be expected is the setting up by the employers of company unions (consisting as usual of favorites, foremen, and stool-pigeons) to act as the dummy representative of voiceless, helpless labor. We must keep in mind that the labor agreements are made for an industry as a whole and not for each workplace separately so that if the workers are not organized they have not the slightest chance for representation.
It is plain that only in the organized trades will there be anything like a living wage where a union can still stand as something of a bulwark before the workers. The minimum wage proposed through the “Codes” must be considered in connection with three facts: 1. The rise in the cost of living. Already the inflation has cause a sensible rise, enough to offset the gains made in the new rates. The Industrial Recovery Act itself will lead to further price lifting. 2. The effort to reemploy large numbers will no doubt lead, at any rate in the big industries, to a widespread use of the stagger systems such as we have seen in the steel industry, for example. This means short hours of labor, indeed, a few days work in the week with a resultant starvation wage. Evidently the plan is to get the unemployed at any cost in a position to support themselves, to east the ever more strained relief situation. Instead of getting a couple of dollars a week in relief the workers will now have to sweat for these couple of dollars. 3. All wages will tend to be reduced to the minimum level. The whole thing is only an experiment. If it doesn’t work to the profit of the employers, the minimum will be abolished.
As for the maximum hours prescribed in the codes, we take these with a grain of salt. It is the one thing to have laws restricting hours and quite another to see them enforced in the competitive industries. New York has fairly good labor laws, yet the restriction on hours are every day flaunted as the workers in any number of industries can testify.
The government itself is also to have its say in the wage-fixing for public workers, and what the governments idea of a wage is we can judge from the reforestation camps with their one dollar plus beans and coffee--the best part of the dollar being sent to the folks back home to keep them off the relief list. The whole mechanism of the legal wage-agreements make it clear that strikes in fact will be illegal, that compulsory arbitration will be the rule. Violations of the Code incur a penalty of $500 and six months in jail. This of course will be used against the workers.
Can the New Deal Solve Unemployment?
This question resolves itself into: Can the country legislate itself out of the crisis? There is no denying there is a slight upturn within the last two months in employment, railroad shipments, etc. The many loans through the Reconstruction Finance Corporation have no doubt been responsible for this. To see the outcome it is necessary to consider all the legislation as well as the general situation of the country. The very measures to increase employment are such as to create unemployment on a new scale. In fact all the legislation is such as to involve the country only in new contradictions.
The Farm legislation is supposed to give the farmer more for his product and hence loosen up the buying power of the farmers, opening up a market of millions for manufactured goods. What are the hitch in this program? First, even if the farmer gets more for his own goods, he will have to pay more for what he buys, since all prices are going up. Thus the old contradiction will be reproduced in a higher plane. Second he will be paid a sort of premium on his wheat (the government to get the money for this by a tax on milling and other processes of manufacturing wheat into foodstuffs) whereby the price will be brought up to a higher level (thereby, of course raising the cost of bread which throughout the crisis has remained high in comparison with the price of wheat.) But the farmer will get this benefit provided only that he curtails production. Thus even though the price per bushel of his wheat or other product may be raised, the total value may not be much greater than now. Third--and this is most important for our discussion here--the curtailment of production necessarily means less employment of labor driving farmers off the land--very small farm producers will not be able to survive curtailment; less hired laborers will be needed; tenant and cropper farmers in the cotton belt, workers in the sugar beet fields, etc. will be driven out. Thus new layers of unemployed will flock to the cities. Nor will the farmers market be opened up to any extent.
Let us look at the industrial program. If there will be a slight rise in wages this will be more than offset by the rise in prices due to inflation and control by the trusts; the cost of living will fall even more severely upon the workers who will find themselves, even if they have jobs, on a terribly low plane of living. We have shown above how the new deal will squeeze out many thousands of small industrialists—these can only become a drug on the labor market,and with them the workers they formerly employed. Even while effort are being made to stimulate employment, the curtailment and regulation of production will throw people out of work.
The same holds true of the public works program; while they may open up some jobs, at the same time efficiency or rationalization projects such as power, roads, etc., tend to put capitalist production on a higher level with less workers, hence eventually more unemployment is created.
We must touch for a moment on the foreign economic policy which is dealt with fully elsewhere in this issue. Briefly-the program for exports would tend to stimulate production, but our exports abroad can only tend to reduce the market in foreign countries for their own products, hence to reduce their production, create unemployment and hence eventually to destroy the market for our exports.
Thus, on the economic field, while we can expect a slight improvement for a time, eventually the country can only become involved in greater contradictions in worse crashes.
The anti-labor policies of the present government can be further seen in its refusal to raise the income tax in the higher brackets, or to tax inheritances, or to pay the veteran bonus, or to yield to any form of unemployment or social insurance. On the contrary, it is raising the cost of living through inflation and other measures. It is levying taxes on the necessities of life. It has drastically cut down on expenditures for the masses and has sharply reduces the salaries of government employees. Men in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, for example, are working for as low as $11 for a full week’s work’. Finally, through the very business “reorganizations” which are now being sponsored, it is fostering further unemployment.
Fascist and Reformist Tendencies Dovetailed.
Every effort is being made to separate the middle elements from the workers. To the student is offered the ideal of the “Brain Trust” the goal of a state controlled by the “scientist” or student. To the small business man is given the hope, through inflation, of being able to pay off his debts or to sell his goods at a higher price. And before his eyes there shimmers the vision of an end to the terror of competition that is driving him to ruin and there appears the utopia of a stagnant monopoly work where consumption could equal production. To the small home owner is given the postponement of mortgage payments for two years. To the small depositor is given the promise of “guaranteed and protected” deposits. To the farmer a whole bagful of promises has been handed out. Prices will be raised, a two year mortgage moratorium established, production will be reduce, etc. And here too there is dangled before the farmer’s eyes the mirage that the gap between the city and the country can be torn down and farm prices raised to equal city trust prices. It is precisely in this manner that Fascism everywhere strives to win the support of the middle elements against Labor and for State capitalism.
It is particularly interesting to see how this new twin has come about in comparison with other countries. Hitherto we have seen the introduction of Fascism in countries where the working class constituted a menace; in Italy accompanied by civil war with the workers attempting to seize power, In Germany with a large Communist Party commanding six million votes and numerous other powerful working class organizations constituting a threat; in other countries with at least some strong proletarian organizations. In America there has been no workers movement sufficiently strong to challenged or even mildly to threaten power. It has been the sheer economic necessity of overcoming the crisis, of preserving profits, that has induced the new turn and hence we see economic measures first being introduced without political violence for which there would be no need. The government is rather acting to forestall such menace on the part of the masses as might develop of which there have been a few signs. The farmers revolt of the middle West was one very decisive factor, and the policy now is to buy over the farmer, to make him think he is a special pet and protege (he will find out the contrary soon enough) and above all to isolate him from the working-class through a rise in farm prices which will increase the cost of living for the city workers.
The New Deal--New Slavery
That the benefits can be only very temporary we have shown above. But the very difficulties into which the capitalist rulers will fall will push them more and more rapidly along the lines of Fascism. At this period it is above all necessary for the workers organizations to combat any tendency to passivity of the working class, any inclination to accept the Industrial Recovery Act as something for their benefit.
And it is just at this critical turning point-when the worker see new chains being forged for their backs to bear-that we see the misleaders of American labor rushing to support Roosevelt and his policies.
Wm. Green of course tries to save the remnants of the A.F.L. by licking Roosevelt’s boots in praise of the New Deal. The A.F.L. leaders with Sydney Hillman of the Amalgamated sit unashamed with the war leader General Hugh Johnson to administer the New Deal. The last issue of the Advance, organ of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers under the editorship of JBS Hardman well known supporter of the C.P.L.S. (Muste group) is one paeon of praise for the benefits of the Industrial Recovery Act, hailing the coming era as one of unexampled opportunity for labor organization under the protection of the government! One cannot picture a more dastardly betrayal of the workers interests.
Roosevelt’s Fascist tendencies, up to now, have been of an economic nature in the main, but already we see signs of a Fascist theory of politics also arising. The system of industrial co-ordinators which has been established, the emergency war powers invoked, the vastly increased powers in reducing pensions and government salaries, the centralization of government and the elimination of the old constitutional “checks and balances” such as the “lame-duck” Congresses and the gap between the election and inauguration of the President, the frequent calls for dictatorial powers that have been issued from the White House with their implicit beliefs in the necessity to have “Faith in the strong man”, the personal intrusions in international negotiations that have been Roosevelt’s way, and finally the myth of the “Brain Trust” with its ideal that through it the State and the Nation can really fuse together, all are in active harmony with Fascist theories and practices.
To some, the characterization of Roosevelt’s policies as leaning towards Fascism may be considered as an exaggeration. Such people will point to the fact that Roosevelt ran in the election as a “liberal”, that his Secretary of Labor is a woman social worker, that he is for the repeal of Prohibition, that he is for the Recognition of Soviet Russia, etc. To this may be added the charge that many Communists, particularly those of the Stalin school, have labeled everyone with a criminal recklessness from Norman Thomas to Hitler as some kind of a Fascist.
To all this we reply, nevertheless, with Jules Sauerwein, the French correspondent, that the above mentioned facts concerning Roosevelt simply make up the velvet glove that covers the iron fist. If there is a Frances Perkins, there is a General Johnson; if there is Soviet recognition, there is the tension against Japan and France. Finally we will go further and state generally that even though one may say that Roosevelt does show some streaks of liberalism, it is clear that it is a “mixed” liberalism, and just as the Italian liberal of yesterday became transformed into the Fascist of today, so the very liberalism of today is revealed as pregnant with the virus of Fascism.
The conditions which are giving rise to Fascist tendencies in the U.S. today are quite different from those which have existed in Italy or Germany. This is quite true. We do not say that we have a full fledged Fascist regime in America as yet. We do say, however, we have the beginnings of it, the germs of it. Nor do we say that Fascism can not be checked and destroyed. But for this we need a real policy and party, a program and a tactic.
It is after all only the Communist forces which stand as a bulwark against the threatening onslaught of reaction. Now more than ever is it necessary for all Communists to rush with full vigor into the fight, to build up the Red Unions as organs for the necessary struggle, to develop the broadest united front, to cleanse the Communist ranks from opportunism in preparation for the inevitable period of struggle ahead.
Step by step German Fascism is consolidating itself. First it smashed the Communist Party. Then it took over the trade union movement. The third step was to declare the Socialist Party also illegal and to drive it underground or liquidate it. Even the Christian Catholic Unions have been destroyed. Simultaneously it has bludgeoned all bourgeois organizations into line. During the elections all the smaller bourgeois groups had been absorbed and disappeared. The Jews were smashed to bits. The Centrists were the next to receive disintegrating blows. They are well on the road to liquidation. The Nationalists have now also been broken up. Their ministers have been dismissed. The Stahlhelm have gone into the Nazi forces. Politically speaking all bourgeois parties have been fused together more or less firmly, under the aegis of Hitler, and all working-class organizations have been broke up. The slogan of the day is order and unity within in order to extend power without!
How could all these parties be brought into line or smashed so easily? We must keep in mind, so far as the bourgeois parties are concerned, just what is involved. We must keep in mind the differences existing between the Junkers and the Industrialists, the differences between light and heavy industry, the differences between the various royal houses (Prussion, Bavarian, etc) the differences between the catholic bourgeois and the Protestant bourgeois, the traditions of separatism that existed in the Reich in the various provinces, the differences between small and big business, etc. How could all these differences be reconciled so that one party could express all sections of private property? It is clear that this could be done only if the bourgeois was desperate, and in their desperation, were compelled to unite all their forces for a grand common struggle in which each section hoped to gain something. That German capitalist private property is desperate has been crystal clear for some time now. The question is what is the character of the great common struggle which is uniting all sections of German capitalism?
The struggle is not within the German Reich. The only force within Germany which could have united all the bourgeois elements against it was the working class. But due to the terrific crimes of the German Socialist and Communist Parties the working class is severely defeated. The German Communist Party which only yesterday talked of taking power today is glad if a few thousand miserable handbills are put out illegally and boasts of its “great achievement". To such depths have the German workingclass fallen. The impending struggle, then, is not today within the German Reich, (though of course it is not excluded that the German workingclass must yet be given new “lessons") but is outside.
THE FOUR POWER ACT
But where outside? Russia. War against Russia is the great task which the German bourgeoisie has set itself and which, in spite of the great differences that divided it and which otherwise would tear the Fascist Party to pieces, unites it so solidly together. Step by step the stage is being set. The most recent event in this direction has been the four power pact between Italy, England, France and Germany. Ordinarily these powers would be a daggers ends against one another. What brings them together? It could be the United States. Far more likely it is Russia.
Germany must have war. Without war Fascism must go to pieces. Without war Germany is locked in and doomed to colonization by the greater powers and partitioned. War on the other hand can rebuild the German Empire and raise again the “German Race". It is the best means really to “unify” the German people, the best way to close the Polish corridor, the best way to reach Anschluss with Austria (where already the Communist Party has been driven underground without the slightest resistance). The sole way out for Germany is toward the East, toward the hated Communist Power in Soviet Russia. Such a war would bring her the friendship of Poland and of the Little Entente, would bring her the support of France and England, would give her a great sphere of influence throughout the whole Baltic and to Asia Minor, would make her again a power to be reckoned with.
France is for such a war. It will greatly weaken Germany. It will destroy the Soviet Union. It will aid her allies to the East of Germany giving her either a new Russian government that would be her ally, or a greatly enriched Little Entente and Poland that would take Russia’s place. It would give her new and great spheres of influence in the Baku regions and in the Far East in conjunction with Japan.
England is for such a war. It will sell her goods. It will destroy the Soviets. It will validate her old concessions and investment in Russia it will strengthen her influence in Persia and in the Near East where she has been in conflict with Russia and will enable her to deal with her colonial revolts and problems far more easily than before.
War then is the way out. And the Four Power Pact means war. It supplements the broken down covenant of the League of Nations. It amends the Kellogg Peace Pact. It finds the “European” solution for the question: What is the way out for capitalism? It is the complement to the Japanese campaign.
THE SALE OF THE CHINESE EASTERN RAILWAY
The Japanese campaign has gone according to stop watch schedule. The treachery of the Chinese war lords, above all Chiang Kai Shek and the other murderers of his clique, and the miserable helpless policies of the Communists have aided the Japanese to seize their objectives and consolidate their positions. This means that our worst fears have been given some base and that Japan is well entrenched for any campaign that can be made against the Soviet Union from the Far East.
In this situation it is a stupid blunder for the Soviet Union to part with the Chinese Eastern Railway by sale to Japan. The taking over of the Chinese Eastern by Japan would immeasurably strengthen Japans imperialism and weaken all Chinese resistance. The Chinese masses must feel that they have been completely abandoned by the Soviet Union whom they had always counted on as their friend and protector. What is the hurry of the Soviet Union? Does it think that the Chinese masses have said their last say? Does it think that it can buy off Japanese imperialism by the sale of the Chinese Eastern railway? The fact of the matter is that these negotiations can have the result only of whetting Japan’s appetite for the rest of its objectives, Eastern Siberia, Mongolia, etc. By this easy victory over Russia, Japan only points the way to all the other imperialist powers how to act.
THE LONDON ECONOMIC CONFERENCE
We do not wish to say that the capitalist world has no longer any contradictions, that all capitalists can be easily united against the Soviet Union. Quite the contrary, not only is the danger of war against the Soviet Union heightened but also the contradictions and conflicts among the capitalist powers are sharpened. This can easily be seen by the London Economic Conference.
Everywhere capitalist antagonisms have been sharpened. Austria cannot long resist the Fascist pressure. The Spanish revolution is in very serious danger. The French regime is on the verge of moving sharply to the right. France who has been relatively isolated has been successful in building up a great alliance between Jugo-Slavia, Roumania and Czechoslovakia which, with Poland, would be quite as strong at least numerically and militarily as Germany itself. This “Little Entente”, with Poland, on the one hand, can be great instrument for commencing the war with Russia, on the other, forms a steel ring around Germany and hems in firmly the aspirations of Italy.
In such a situation what can the world economic conference do? It can not relieve the world economic crisis. The debtor powers of Europe are faced with an irreconcilable antagonism to the creditor power, the United States. The Four Power Pact is directed not only against Russia but also against the U.S. in a certain degree. Before the economic conference there are the questions of war debts to which are linked the questions of reparations and of disarmament; then there are the questions of tariffs and of currency stability. In the heart of all these questions is the bitterly increasing struggle for world markets in which each country is trying to get out of the world crisis at the expense of the other.
By inflation the U.S. has struck a violent blow against England and France. Inflation will tend to increase the exports of U.S. in foreign markets at the expense of these countries. France will suffer because the dollar will fall in relation to the franc and France will lose greatly both in tourist trade and in exports. Already France has retaliated with an increase in her tariffs of 15% on all American goods, as England has retaliated in Argentina. By the gold embargo, U.S. struck another blow against debtor Europe. Already France has not paid the two installments of her debt to the U.S. Practically all the rest of Europe and others to create a debtors block against the U.S. The situation cannot last long without violent struggle. Roosevelt has just announced a Big Navy program that will make our Navy “Second to NONE” here is the answer.
Twelve hundred workers in the Bronx were called out on strike June 26th, by the Laundry Workers Industrial Union. The majority of these workers are Negroes. Here we have the fact which gives the strike its weight and importance. A correct leadership would have seen in this strike an opportunity to show the Negro workers that in the day-to-day struggle of the oppressed Negro the Communist Party leads the fight. Here was the chance for the Communist Party to prove that Negro and white fighting together in a union lead by the Communist Party could force from the bosses better living conditions and a higher wage. With this as a base the CP could have penetrated Harlem and demonstrated clearly that in local struggles, as well as in cases like Scottsboro, the Negro can trust the Communist Party to be in the forefront. The TUUL should have recognized the importance of such a strike and should have prepared for it with thoroughness. Besides the strike was important as a demonstration in view of the machinery of compulsory arbitration and no strikes now being set up by Roosevelt National Industrial Recovery Act.
In the loss of the strike we have a double defeat. First, the workers even those who formed the most militant fighters, have lost their confidence in a union. But without a strong union, the laundry workers will not be able to deal to their advantage when the time comes to formulate the laundry code in the Industrial Recovery Act. Second, the strikers were not able to win the demands which they set out to get. Wherein lies the cause for this defeat?
The Bronx laundry strike can be seen only as a series of blunders from beginning to end. The criminal actions of the strike must be laid directly to the leadership, whose dog-in-the-manger attitude, whose incapability, whose inefficiency, has been simply transformed into increased burdens for the Negro and white strikers. As one striker expressed it, “You say everyone makes mistakes, but I’m the one who lost two weeks pay and my job.” That’s exactly the point. These irresponsible “mistakes” cost the workers dear.
In the laundry industry, the great majority of the workers are Negroes. These have the worst jobs, in the hottest parts of the laundry and as is the usual case in capitalist America, they receive the lowest wages. Many of the girls get 17 cents an hour. In a 52 hour week they can get only $8.84. From this must be deducted at least 10 cents a day for fare, although 20 cents for fare is not unusual.
The most favored worker is the driver. He builds up his own route and receives the highest wages besides commission. One of the mistakes of the strike was in laying the greatest stress on the drivers instead of the largest and most oppressed section-the inside workers. Throughout the strike the leaders relegated the inside workers to an inferior position. The drivers were called by prominent strike leaders “the most important group of workers". This was simply a repetition of the old AFL policy of stressing the skilled and highly paid workers at the expense of the most oppressed group.
It was against the long hours, the low wages, the discrimination against Negroes, and for the recognition of the Laundry Workers’ Industrial Union which brought together Negro and white workers that the laundry workers were striking.
At a membership meeting of the union one month before the strike was called, a motion for strike was overwhelmingly defeated. Th union then called an open meeting. A fine way to call a strike! Have an open meeting where foremen and others can stuff the meeting and then vote for strike. But a strike is no plaything. It means that the struggle between boss and workers comes out into the open. Each mobilized all forces ready to strike without pretty words. Therefore the question, “Who called the strike?” is a very vital one.
1. According to the party, the right opposition in the leadership wanted to force a strike upon the workers. But the leaders of the opposition were in the Superfine laundry which voted at the first meeting against strike. The Superfine is the best organized shop and the backbone of the union. From the beginning it has been against strike in the slack season and without preparation.
2. The party members in the leadership should have demanded that the question of strike be decided at meetings of the shops. This would have prevented the stuffing of the meeting either by bosses or by party members, etc.
3. Since this was not done, the responsibility for a stuffed meeting must be laid to the party, whose experience should have taught them that a strike must be called by the workers themselves.
But the lack of preparation for the strike was only the first blunder. The main thing to see clearly is how the strike was conducted and led. How did the leaders organize the work? How were the strikers drawn into the work of the strike? In what way did the leadership in-spire the strikers to real militancy?
1. On the 6th day of the strike, Kaufman, strike leader and Communist said to the workers, “Beginning Monday our strike will really begin. Committees will be organized. You’ll see plenty of action.”
On the 8th day of the strike, Kaufman said to the workers, “Beginning with Wednesday you’ll see plenty of action.”
On the 13th day of the strike, Kaufman told the workers, “Our strike will really begin Monday. Then you’ll see some action.”
How long could the strikers trust a leader like “Comrade Kaufman?”
2. Picketing was not organized. The helplessness of the leaders was shown in this as well as in other factors. The strikers were not registered for picketing even when the strike had been in progress for two weeks. Strikers were never organized to picket before their own shops. Yet this is a point of great importance for to bring scabs out the scabs must see their own fellow-workers picketing in front of the shops. As for mass picketing, this took place only once. YCL-ers and outsiders were mobilized to picket the laundries instead of the workers themselves.
Even if there were no time for preparation before the strike, surely in thirteen days in the heat of enthusiasm, the organization of picketing could have been accomplished. But the fact is there was no “enthusiasm” except at the very beginning.
3. Relief: A kitchen where strikers could get food was opened on the 10th day of the strike. A relief committee began to function on the 11th day. This in face of the fact that many of the strikers are in the most desperate need and have no reserve funds. A member of the relief committee reported that plenty of food was available but no cars were at hand to deliver the food to the kitchen!
4. A great majority of the strikers were young girls and woman. A woman organizer in the field would have activized these girls and women in the relief work, in the work of collecting money, in raising the morale of the strike, etc.
5. We can state here one more example of how the leadership, demoralized itself, also demoralized the strikers. When Detective Shindell entered the strike hall to arrest one of the strikers for felonious assault, instead of offering vigorous resistance as any one not a faker would have done, Comrade Kaufman, prominent Communist leader, stepped up to the detective, shook hands with him and greeted him with words, “How are you, Shindell?” How much faith can strikers have in a leader who consorts in such a friendly manner with the detective who comes up to arrest a striker? Does this make for militancy in the strikers?
6. Instead of organizing the workers the leaders of the union called a meeting to organize “consumers". This issued leaflets to the consumers and long debates were held to determine to which laundry the housewife should send her bundles.
We see, then, that there was no preparation for the strike, and that there was no organization. Evidently then, the strike leadership could have used any aid from the outside that was volunteered to assist in the strike work and to help in the extension of the strike to other laundries in the Bronx and in down town New York. Almost at the beginning of the strike, the Communist League of Struggle sent a letter to the strike committee offering its resources, in the form of speakers, leaflets, pickets, money, etc. This letter was never taken up. Nevertheless our comrades picketed, collected money, served food in the kitchen, etc. At this point the YCL and the Communist party members took things into their own hands. With the insolence of the functionary, our comrades were told to “get out, if you know what’s good for you.” YCL members tried to take collection sheets from us. We were informed by Communist Party members that politics and the strike had nothing to do with each other. All this shows that to the CP members the successful carrying thru of the strike was of less importance than the exclusion of the CLS in the field. Although the leadership was without a head, and ran around in desperation, it had ample time to find means of exterminating us, but not one minute could it spare to find means for utilizing our resources in the interests of the strike.
Only organizations affiliated with the party were called into the strike. At a United Front Conference called to consider ways of financing the strike, 61 of the 63 delegates were from party-controlled organizations. The other two delegates were from the CLS and from the Militant Youth Club. It was at this meeting that Comrade Taft expressed his “gratification” with the fact that at most United Front Conferences, only Communist party controlled organizations were present.
But perhaps the work of extending the strike was carried on without the aid of other organizations? One example is sufficient to answer this. The Monroe Laundry is a downtown laundry, not on strike. Six workers in the Monroe Laundry refused to handle work that had been sent from a striking laundry. They were fired at once. The union deserted these workers, did not attempt to pull out the workers of the Monroe Laundry and the upshot is that the six workers are still out and the Monroe Laundry remained a scab laundry. The leadership entirely neglected the work of extending the strike. Because of this the motion was in the opposite direction. Discouraged by weak leadership, disgusted with the lethargy of strike, weakened by continued defeats, the strikers went back to work. “The workers vote with their feet.” This brings us to the situation where we see five strikers in a shopof 100 workers. The bosses know well how to handle such a situation. They change the strike into a lockout. The bosses of the Exact Laundry, for example, refused to take back any strikers. When the bosses close the doors, we have a lockout, not a strike.
The leaders of the union who are communist party members, have accounted for their failure in carrying out a really militant strike in many ways. In the first place they put the blame on the workers. The workers are inexperienced, the workers are unorganized, “even Columbia students are more militant than these strikers.” This is not the only time that the CP has shown its distrust of the laundry workers. A leaflet to housewives was issued before a leaflet was distributed to scab laundries; the highly paid drivers were made the center of the fight; the representative of the TUUL told the workers that those among them who spoke of conferences with Mr. Thruman were to blame for the failure of the strike.
The CP leaders hid behind the cry: “The opposition is very strong”, “the right wing is powerful". What are the facts? The president of the union is a Communist. The secretary of the union is a Communist. Two representatives of the TUUL are always present. Only Rheingold, of the officers, could be termed “right Wing” by the party.
By the end of two weeks the strike was already definitely over. The line should have been to organize the retreat, try to make some small gains, and work to save the union. Many workers began to echo the words of the fighting Negro woman who said, “I won’t have anything more to do with the union. I’m sick and tired of waiting around doing nothing.”
Against this brand of communism, AFL communism, the CLS will fight bitterly. Against a yellow communism which betrays the workers and then leaves them defenseless, the CLS will strike pitiless blows.
The present moment is a critical turning point for the American working class. A miserably low standard of living is being legalized through the labor codes of the Industrial Recovery Law. Class collaboration is being made the official labor philosophy of the country; company unionism is given a big impetus. Organized labor is in a deplorably weak state just at the time when it most needs all of its strength to fight the new Fascist governmental turn.
At this moment it seems to us the rankest capitulation to advance the slogan of “One Union in the Needle Trades” or even in the dressmakers section, as is being done. What is the situation in the needle trades? The Left Wing is weak indeed; its following has fallen off much from the high point of 1962 or thereabouts. For this we can blame the Party’s bureaucracy and bluff and sectarian tactics added to the crass opportunism which was a hidden sore in the needle trades from the old Lovestone days on. But what is the solution? To give up the fight altogether? To liquidate and go back to the ILGWU under such terms that will make the Left go through all the old experiences again?
In the TUUL as a whole there have been many paper unions formed, in competition with AFL unions, which never had a basis for existence. But the need for the Red Unions in the vast unorganized field, or in cases like the dressmaking industry where a big influence of the Left Wing led to mass expulsion from the AFL, we have always warmly defended. What would be some of the results now of liquidation the dress makers’ section?
1. It would greatly weaken and probably deal a death blow to the Furrier’s section which recently has been able to make big gains, winning back a good deal of its old influence which came to a climax in the victorious strike of 1926.
2. It would greatly weaken and discourage other sections of the Needle Trades where the TUUL is making efforts to win unorganized workers untouched by the AFL such as in the knit goods, white goods, underwear, etc. These workers altogether number many thousands.
3. Worst of all, it would set a precedent for the abandonment of the TUUL altogether. If the Needle Trades section is not strong enough to maintain itself what section is? To give up the chief stronghold at the time of the bosses attack is surely likely to lead to the loss of the whole defense. Especially is this true now when the right wing unions are consolidating themselves, when a wearing apparel federated group is contemplated including the Amalgamated Clothing Workers, the International Ladies Garment Workers, the Cap and Headgear Workers, the Pocketbook Workers, Neckwear Workers, and other right wing unions. Such a group will be certainly the strongest labor combination in existence in the country. The policies of such a group under Socialist and Muste influences are shown well enough in the recent enthusiastic support by the “Advance” organ of the ACWU of the Industrial Recovery Act as a great boon to labor. This group is now preparing the worst treacheries in its history.
If the Party’s tactics in the last few years have been such as to dig the grave of the TUUL, this does not say that the Left Opposition must jump in and help to dig the grave. On the contrary now we must defend more strongly than ever whatever mass organizations the Communists have. Let us leave the capitulatory slogans to the Lovestonites whose despicable role is becoming daily more apparent, while we more than ever fight to build strong industrial unions with a policy of united front for militant resistance to the New Deal and by struggle to raise the workers standard of living to organize the working-class in preparation for the revolution.
Our German Bureau launches a new paper “Der Klassenkampf".
We are very glad to announce that we have been able to organize a German Bureau which has already put out the first number of its monthly paper, “Der Klassenkampf” (the Class Struggle). While we realize that the German workers do not need a special treatment in the American labor movement, and that all remnants of their foreign garb should be done away with as soon as possible, yet there does exist a large German colony of workers who can not speak and read English. These workers must be organized under the banner of the Left Opposition. It will be the duty of our German Bureau and its paper Der Klassenkampf to do so.
Already the first issue has been very well received and has been almost all sold out. On one stand more papers were sold of Der Klassenkampf than of any other weekly or monthly paper. The first number contains an article by Comrade Trotsky on the Tragedy of the German Proletariat, a fine and thoroughly workers out analysis of the breakdown of the German proletariat and a perspective as to what to do now. Other articles contain Lenin’s Testament, in which the Communists are asked to remove Stalin a secretary, a special editorial “Wie war es moeglich” comparing the German situation of yesterday with the German situation today, the writer arriving at the conclusion that any attempt to revive the CPG would only lead to a new disaster, and other articles on the local German situation.
The paper can be obtained at our headquarters or at the Moderne Buchhandlung 1615-17 Second Avenue.
Some of our comrades have been active in the Downtown Unemployed Council. We find there a good example of the fact that because of the bureaucracy and lack of a mass base the Party has fallen into the rankest mixture of opportunism and adventurism.
First of all there is the sterile practice of going regularly, every morning, with “needy cases” to the Home Relief Bureau. In the fifth year of the ever deepening crisis the Party still resorts to the regular time-honored custom of petitions to politicians. And resorts to it not only as a sideline or auxiliary policy but as the main part of its procedure. How can such a formalistic, right-wing method really build up a militant movement or a revolutionary Party?
This day to day opportunism is mixed with a day to day adventurism both being linked together by being mere “demonstrations” and “show” work instead of the real solid work necessary. Here is an example. Two of our Comrades were attending a meeting of one of the block committees. Just as we were through (about 11 P.M.) three Y.C.L. members ran up and told us that a woman had just been evicted on Ludlow Street (about one-half mile away from our meeting).
Our Comrades asked them whether there was a block committee on that block. They said “Of course". We then asked them what it was doing and were told no one had known anything about the eviction and that not a single person was now there to do anything about it.
Notwithstanding all this the Communist Party member in charge of this block committee than ordered us to mobilize, called some strong arm men from the Red Front down and told us that we were all going to put the furniture back. Our comrades pointed out that this was no way to build up either the Ludlow Street block committee or our own. The others agreed but thought they would go ahead anyway. Not caring to be called “deserters”, “ counter-revolutionists”, etc. and wishing to show our willingness to cooperate and abide by discipline, our comrades went along. We helped to put back the furniture which was done so quietly and secretly that no one knew what we were doing, although of course the first job should have been the mobilization of the neighbors themselves. Not a single person living on the block helped us to put back the furniture. When it was over the organizer got up on a barrel and shouted out a few words in praise of the Unemployed Councils. The only ones around him were those of us who had come from about a half a mile away.
The next morning one of our comrades passed the house and found the furniture out on the street again.
Since this time our comrades have taken over the whole block committee. All the unemployed have been canvassed. Real work is being begun for the first time in spite of the bitter opposition of the Party bureaucrats. We hope soon we shall be able to make a report of some actual achievements.
Instructions for our fraction in Unemployment Work.
1. While we are not opposed to other methods of work (such as meetings before City Halls, State Houses, the White House etc. under certain circumstances) yet the whole emphasis of our fraction must be toward self help and direct action. We must struggle against any attempt to make the chief orientation questions of petitions, visits to politicians, etc. and the chief tactic parades, shows, demonstrations outside workers neighborhoods, etc.
2. All our principle slogans must be used and made concrete for the given circumstances. Special stress must be laid on the slogan of general strike of limited duration. Behind the unemployment crisis must be seen a handful of conspirators against the masses. Such a view is best crystallized by such slogans as End the Lockout, Open the Factories for the Unemployed, open the Warehouses for the Hungry. Our principle job, especially in the present phase of the crisis is above all the connection of employed and unemployed. This be done through such slogans as the general strike and the slogan Smash the Sweat Shop System.
3. Of course in all its work the fraction must be guided by the general POLITICAL slogans of the group. At every opportunity they must launch an attack against the Roosevelt regime particularly its Industrial Recovery Act, must point out the advances in the Soviet Union and the views of Trotsky and the Left Opposition.
4. Two principle questions face our comrades in this work: the question of shelter and the question of food. The question of shelter is generally more important and sharper. Nothing enrages the workers more than to see a helpless family thrown out on the streets. And of all the sections of the capitalist, the landlord in a workers quarter is the weakest as he cannot move away and must remain within the workers stronghold.
5. The struggle for shelter can take on two principal forms: Struggle for the reduction of rent and improvement of conditions. Second, the question of evictions for non-payment of rent by the unemployed. In our unemployed work, of course the main question is to take care of the unemployed who are to be evicted. But often this cannot be done effectively unless all the tenants are aroused and this in turn cannot be done without directly fighting for the interests of all the tenants. This will cement employed and unemployed. In every case the formation of Tenants Leagues should be attempted as soon as possible to support the unemployed work.
6. These tenant leagues must take in all the tenants in the neighborhood and should be based on the house and block. The demands must be for improvement of renting conditions, reduction of rents and termination of eviction for non-payment of rent by the unemployed. In each house a committee should be set up. Where one of the unemployed is to be evicted, all the other families must refuse to pay their full rent and contribute to the unemployed family. All must strike and fight together. All are to be evicted together. If the landlord picks out the leaders to evict first and there is an eviction every attempt must be made physically to prevent this being done or to make it so costly that the landlord will lose far more than he bargained for. The whole block must be aroused by leaflets, open-air meetings, etc. systematically done and the landlord exposed. Where all are finally evicted, pickets must be thrown around the house that will prevent others from moving in. An investigation should be made as to other properties of the same landlord, etc. so as to enlarge the fight to these other properties as soon as possible. When once a successful fight has been waged this must be broadcasted as efficiently so that all the blocks in the immediate neighborhood can do likewise. A local headquarters of the Tenants League must be set up in the neighborhood with financial, educational and other departments to do the work effectively. The legal department must be connected with ILD as must all the other work be connected with the other organizations of the Communist movement that can do the job.
7. A strategy and tactic must be worked out so that the battles can be started with that section of the landlords most oppressive, weakest, etc. We must thoroughly expose the landlord associations and wherever the association helps a landlord member out this fact must be broadcasted to all the tenants in the houses controlled by this association.
8. Wherever tenants leagues cannot be organized to support the unemployed who are to be evicted the battle against these evictions must go on by themselves, the whole block being organized behind the unemployed councils and block committees in the same manner as illustrated above. If it is possible to pull out workers in strike who are working in the factories of that locality and are indignant at the brutalities of the police and the evictions of the unemployed this should be by all means be done. Once the workers are out in the streets they can be organized in unions and their own demands fought for too.
9. A much more difficult struggle is the fight for food which in some cases is even more pressing than the fight for shelter, many families saving to pay the rent but slowly starving to death. The fight for food can take on the following forms: Relief for the unemployed formation of consumers cooperatives, Women Councils against the High Cost of Living. Here again the principle direction is that of self help, and direct action, the principle aim to unite the unemployed and the employed.
10. To support the unemployed it is necessary to fight against the high cost of living, what with inflation, wage cuts, etc. Anti-High Cost of Living Groups should be organized in the neighborhoods, the initiative especially to be taken by the women. Generally membership will be restricted to women. Picketing must be commenced against all shops with extra high prices. Full exposure of the plight of the farmer and the prices he gets and the prices we must pay must be made.
11. Simultaneously there must be opened up either consumers cooperatives that will sell all stuff at cost and also and above all now kitchens and restaurants for the unemployed and others where food will be sold at cost. Once the women can be organized they can easily organize a good kitchen to relieve the unemployed, those destitute and those with but little money. Of course these kitchens must not become charity kitchens, they must not replace the fight for relief. Quite the contrary they must be the veritable mobilization points of all the unemployed in the block. The food should be served only at stated hours. The place run in such a manner that the masses become thoroughly aroused and educated to the need for struggle.
12. Committees must go to all the stores demanding, on the threat of boycott, that certain contributions be made to the kitchen. Special emphasis must be made on the large stores and trust companies like the A. & P. The poor must be directed to the food warehouses in the neighborhoods, to the food trucks in the street, to the food shops and in militant demonstrations to be held in the workers neighborhood there must be a direction given so that the masses can satisfy their hunger.
13. In all of this work the unemployed must take the leading roles. All the unemployed must be registered. All the organizations they belong, visited and interested in the struggle. This holds true especially for the lodge associations, the clubs, the trade unions, the parties they may belong to. In each house there should be a house committee. This can coincide with the committee of the tenants league, or the Anti-High Cost of Living Groups in such are organized in the neighborhood, although it must consist of all the unemployed group that will have regular meetings and will have a block committee. The problems of this block committee must be above all the question of food and shelter enumerated above. Systematic open-air meetings must be held under the name of the unemployed block group etc. These meetings must be well prepared for, well organized. Joint meetings later are to be held with other blocks and neighborhood demonstrations put over that be of a militant aggressive character.
14. Every effort must be done to see that a real united front in the neighborhood of all workers organizations is built up. It is this unite front that will guide all of the unemployed work and support it. To this united front of course must be the tenant leagues and the Anti-High Cost of Living Groups but above all there must be all of the main working class groups. There must be a vigorous struggle against the opportunism of the non-Communists and the bureaucracy of the Communist Party. In all these united front the CLS must stand forth with its own banner, its own leaflets, etc.
Draft Instructions for our Comrades in the Unions on Unemployment Work.
15. The new blows being rained upon labor by Roosevelt, the temporary pickup in industry preparatory to a still greater crash that is due, make all the more imperative that our comrades now more than ever wake up the trade union movement to the necessity of carrying on militant aggressive unemployment work. The great need of the hour is the linking up of the unemployed and the employed. Besides our general slogans of Annihilate the Sweatshop system and General Strike for social and unemployment insurance, etc. there must be carried out a systematic effort to change the line of the unions.
16. It must be pointed out that the organization of the unorganized cannot take place without the unions mobilizing the unemployed. Up to now the unemployed have been entirely ignored. Even the Red Unions have shown themselves no better than the AF of L. Our fractions within the unions must carry on the following tasks:
(a.) Demand the unemployed should not be separated from the employed in the unions. The initiation fee should be discarded, the dues made very low for the unemployed. Regular drives must be made to recruit the unemployed into the union and demands made for the unemployed in the industry. Within the unions complete equality should be insisted upon and a real fraternity developed.
(b.) The Unions are to open up rest rooms, food kitchens, etc. for their unemployed members and prospective members, workers in their trade. Often there are whole neighborhoods where the workers of a particular industry predominate. Here is a good place for the unions to open up a union center for the unemployed. Let the unemployed workers know that the unions are solidly behind them. At these centers food can be sold at cost. Cafeterias set up. The workers mobilize for action in the industry, etc.
(c.) The unemployed are to be mobilized in smashing the sweatshop system. In all strikes called by the union, the unemployed must also be taken into consideration and demands raised that will increase the feeling among the unemployed that the union is really their union too.
(d.) Above all the unions must be made to unite in forming joint councils with all workers organizations for the carrying out of united unemployment work. These councils can be called by the unemployed councils directly. The unions must work with these councils. Council members must be made to join the unions, union members made to join the council in every way both centers must coordinate activity to strengthen each other. It is these united front bodies of trade unions and other organizations that can give the lead in any general strike movement of social and unemployment insurance, etc.
(e.) A vigorous struggle must be carried on against the Fakers of the A.F. of L. the Muste and Lovestone leaders who have done really nothing for the unemployed within the unions, and who declare that the unions and unemployed must march separately. A similar vigorous fight must be made against the Communist fakers who have in fact within their very unions separated the unemployed from the employed (See the office Workers Union, and other unions where the unemployed workers of that industry are organized into unemployed office workers “associations” which theoretically” have no connection with the office workers union but in fact are controlled by the same party incompetent bureaucrats.
The Mooney United Front.
On Monday June 25th a conference was called at Irving Plaza Hall to create a Mooney Council of Action for New York. The conference was opened by Frank Palmer of the Federated Press who reported on the work done by the committee that had been elected at a previous conference (reported in Class Struggle). Almost all of the 314 delegates were Party members, only 15 locals of the AFL being represented besides a few scattered Workmen Circle Branches and opposition groups.
John D. Masov business agent of the Glass Blowers Union AFL was elected chairman of the conference. His first job was to introduce our perpetual friend, Robert Minor, who spoke for 2 1/2 hours, long enough almost to convince all the delegates that Tom Mooney was innocent. Each delegate was then allowed five minutes for discussion for those who by some accident could get the floor who disagreed with Minor. However such delegates as Alexander and Weinstock, Party leaders they were allowed to make thirty minutes speeches and over. Really Mooney case was gassed to death.
Finally Minor introduced a motion that since it was so late, only three delegates representing trade unions be allowed to speak. I then demanded the floor on an amendment to the motion, declaring that the C.L.S. also had the right to speak because we disagreed with the principal resolution and wanted to amend it. The chairman declared my motion was not necessary that I would be given the floor. But like the good Party member he was he failed to keep his word.
Instead of the proposals made by Mooney for the organization of a general strike the “actions” proposed was a tag day and the circulation of petitions. Against this outrageous type of actions for a conference called after Mooney is in jail for fifteen years the CLS emphatically protested but could not get the floor. Finally when I did mange to get the floor for a few minutes and had stated that we must reject this opportunist yellow resolution and that we must stand four square with Tom Mooney on the question of a General Strike, the hall was thrown into confusion and turmoil. The Communist Party delegates “the friends” of Mooney, became a howling mob making it absolutely impossible to speak. Nevertheless the workers now see clearly that only the CLS really carried forward the revolutionary banner and that the Communist Party with its tag days and petitions repeated and repeated year after year, is only here following the worst traditions of the yellow Socialist international.
Letter to Tom Mooney
133 Second Ave, Rm 24
July 5, 1933.
Dear Comrade Mooney,
In the Chicago National Conference for the defense of Tom Mooney and later in the New York City conference there came up the question of what shall be the program of action to put pressure of the masses for your release.
For now over a year we have stood for the line of action that the workers in this country were discontented enough to give ear to the slogan for a general strike of limited duration not only for your release but also for unemployment and social insurance. When, therefore, your statement was read some time ago, raising the very slogan of general strike, we were at once four square with your views.
What other pressure can be brought to bear than the general strike that will really be effective? Petitions, parades, visits to politicians, etc. , these have been played out long ago. We need much stronger pressure than that. The workers are thoroughly behind your case. The four years of the crisis have rendered them eager for action. The strike always has been the traditional legal weapon for the workers to begin action.
Besides, the general strike, even if for a day, will be a tremendous organizational weapon for the rebuilding of the trade unions. It can be made the means of organizing millions of unorganized. It is the kind of demonstration that can electrify the working-class revealing to it its enormous power. There are many other reasons which we can give in advocating the use of the slogan at this time, of the general strike of limited duration, but we feel that in this letter these arguments would be superfluous.
Unfortunately, we were not able to send delegates to the Chicago conference. At this conference it seems the only body to propose the general strike except yourself was the I.W.W. To our great dismay we have learned that it was the Communists present who attacked this slogan. They declared that it was syndicalistic, that it was adventurist, that it was premature, that we cannot play with general strikes, that the workers do not want it, that the general strike is good only when the country is ready for insurrection, etc., etc.
Now we are not a syndicalist organization but a Communist one and it is our business to defeat the I.W.W. generally. But we must declare that the Communists acted truly shamefully on this question. We have written our views in the last issue of the Class Struggle which we have sent you some time ago. We shall write again on this question. We are thoroughly convinced that the cheap “pageants” methods of the Communist Party will get us nowhere beyond a few parades, a few petitions, etc.
In the New York Conference held in June, again we presented your viewpoint which was also our viewpoint on the question of raising the slogan of a general (and this time local New York City) strike of limited duration. Again we were howled and laughed down. We asked only that the Communists make an investigation as to what can be done along this line. We wanted that at least the slogan should be raised and the effect of this slogan upon the masses examined. We demanded that at least a preliminary union conference should be attempted to see what could be done in the nature of mobilizing the unions for a one day general strike action. To no avail. INSTEAD OF THAT THE CONFERENCE DECIDED TO HAVE A TAG DAY, AS THOUGH TAG DAYS WILL GET YOU OUT OF PRISON.
We are writing you to get an expression of opinion from you. We would like to have you put pressure upon the Tom Mooney Conferences throughout the country for the viewpoint which you have expressed and which we have consistently supported. We would like to have an article by you on the necessity of raising the slogan of the general strike at this time (for your release, for unemployment and social insurance, and for the smashing of the Roosevelt Industrial Recovery -Slavery-Law). We would be glad to print your article in our papers, the Class Struggle and Der Klassenkampf and would send it to all our European connections.
With warm comradely greetings, we are
Communist League of Struggle
(Adhering to the International Left Opposition)
The Presbyterian Church Conference at Auburn
The Presbyterian Church last month invited Comrade Weisbord to address its annual conference at Auburn, New York, on the subject of Communism and the Social Order. The other speakers of the day were Professor Fetter, of Princeton University for capitalism, and Professor Taylor of Columbia, for the New Deal. A local member spoke for Socialism. Ivy Lee, capitalist spokesman in New York, had refused to speak when he learned Comrade Weisbord was to be there also, but the church had rejected his condition. The result was a real victory of the Communist League of Struggle and the Left Opposition.
Professor Fetter moaned for the good old days of competitive capitalism of the 19th century and called “back to 1492 or thereabouts". He did point out all the attendant evils of frustrated monopolies. Professor Taylor supplemented him by pointing out the evils of competitive capitalism and called for something like Technocracy. Since each of the “professors” had critically destroyed the base of the other, it was easy for Comrade Weisbord to demolish them completely and to put forward the Communist case.
The remarks by our Secretary were very well received. He was asked to stay the next day and give a talk on “Dialectical Materialism and Religion the Opium of the People” which he did to his own great amusement and the edification of the hundred or so ministers there. Those poor ministers. It was plain to see they were like babes in the woods, ignorant of life, dumb-struck by the great calamity of the crisis and its attendant effects upon their congregations and themselves. This about the best of them. At worst they were hard-boiled capitalist agents who knew very well what was the job the capitalists had given to them and what they were expected to do.
The result of these talks were that many of the ministers were neutralized. Good contacts were established with some of the liberal and Negro ministers which will be used by the organization. The speech of Comrade Weisbord will be printed and circulated in church circles. In general Lenin’s admonition that we must learn to push the liberals so that just as they are about to step forward an inch we push them forward a yard was kept well in mind.
The Open-Air Meetings.
Since about the middle of May our group has carried out outdoor meetings, averaging about two or three a week. Some of them jointly with the Communist League of America. Generally, each of these meetings has been very well received. This is in part due to the careful preparation that have been made. There is a definiteness of subject matter and arrangement among the speakers. Each meeting covers a given subject and the speakers speak to the point. Leaflets are handed out summarizing all.
The subjects so far have been on Fascism, Unemployment, Roosevelt’s new blows against Labor, Anti-Imperialist Law, Against the Industrial Recovery Act etc. Meetings are held regularly Fridays on Second Ave & Tenth St. other times on the waterfront in the German neighborhood etc.
A large number of Class Struggles and other literature have been sold. The attendance being good and the audience very sympathetic, the speakers being well developed and able to answer questions thoroughly, a leaflets being handed out, all these things contribute to make good literature sales. Some workers now have come regularly, some even up to our headquarters and have become sympathizers to our organization.